The clock is ticking and we’re coming closer and closer to kick-off. The world’s biggest football carnival will soon burst into life and we’ll see numerous footballing heroes (and possibly villains) emerge. There will be controversies aplenty on and off the pitch, but which teams will finish in the top two in their group to progress to the round of 16?
Without the help of a convenient psychic octopus to aid us (rest in peace, Paul), making predictions will be a little bit more difficult, but without further ado, let’s try and look into the future and predict who will qualify starting with groups A to D.
Group A: Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, & Cameroon
Brazil will qualify from this group. Not the boldest prediction in the world, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t pressure on the Seleção to perform especially with the specter of protests looming over the World Cup. The squad and manager seem comfortable enough though some members are expressing sympathy regarding the grievances of the protesters. Rather than inhibiting the team, the players and manager could be spurred on by the need to give Brazil something to cheer about. With the wily Luiz Filipe Scolari at the helm the Brazilians can harness the anger and use it to generate momentum, especially if they get off to a good start against the Croatians. The only question is over goalkeeper Julio Cesar and whether he’s played enough football this season to be up to the mark.
The Croatians didn’t make qualification easy for themselves, firing their coach Igor Stimac and replacing him with Niko Kovac in time for the play offs. There is talent in this team with the likes of Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, and Mario Mandzukic, though the latter is suspended for the opening match against Brazil after being sent-off against Iceland in the play offs. Their second match against Cameroon will be crucial in their efforts to progress to the knockouts. Should the Croats triumph against Cameroon they should be able to beat Mexico to secure a berth in the round of 16.
Mexico’s qualifying campaign was extremely traumatic. The Mexicans needed their rivals, the United States, to score a last minute goal against Panama to ensure a play off spot against New Zealand. This Mexican commentator was rather grateful for Graham Zusi’s equalizer.
Mexican fans were thankful to Zusi too, presenting the US International with a plaque, a framed photo, and dubbing him ‘San Zusi’. Mexico though can’t expect any favours in their World Cup group and it’s hard to see them progressing to the knockout stages, especially with key players like Javier Hernandez struggling for form.
Here’s an interesting tidbit, Mexico has qualified 15 times for the World Cup (including this one) but have never won the trophy. Having failed to win the World Cup in 14 previous attempts, El Tri hold the record for the most number of appearances by a nation in this tournament without having won it. Don’t expect that to change anytime soon.